After suffering consecutive lopsided defeats to Nick Diaz and Rory MacDonald, it appeared as though MMA luminary B.J. Penn would be stepping away from the sport for good. Few people voiced their support for that possibility more loudly than UFC president Dana White. So, it came as a surprise to many when it was revealed that Penn had talked White into a comeback fight against his twice-previous opponent Frankie Edgar.
In a Google Hangout hosted by Mike Chiapetta and Adam Hunter earlier this week, the UFC president explained how the surprising match up came about.
“B.J. Penn sends me a text that says, ‘Dana, I want to fight Ben Henderson.’ So, I immediately pick up my phone and call him, and he doesn’t answer. This was two days ago,” White said.
The UFC president went on to reveal that he intended to talk Penn out of it, with plans to cite the fighter’s wealth, legendary status and loving family as proof that the 34-year-old would be better served keeping the gloves off.
“So then B.J. calls me, like, 45 minutes later. He’s like, ‘Hey Dana, I didn’t answer your phone call because I don’t want you to talk me out of this. I know how you are. I know what you’re going to say, and you’re going to talk me out of it.’ I was like, ‘You’re damn right I’m going to talk you out of it.’ He says, ‘The reason I want to fight Ben Henderson is because I believe if I beat Ben Henderson, you’ll give me a shot to fight Frankie Edgar.’ I’m like, ‘Frankie Edgar?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, I want this Frankie Edgar fight worse than anything. Those two losses, he’s the rock in my shoe. He should’ve never beat me. That guy can’t beat me. I can beat him.'”
From there, all it took was a phone call from White to Edgar — who eagerly accepted Penn’s challenge — and plans were set for the two to meet upon the conclusion of their coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter 19. Though Penn’s last several bouts were at welterweight, his rubber match against Edgar will take place in the featherweight division.
As for why The Prodigy would want to return to the ring despite enjoying all of the accomplishments White listed, the UFC boss believes it has to do with regret over talent unexpressed and potential unachieved. Simply put, he believes Penn still feels he has something to prove.
“B.J. is one of these guys who, I think, is fighting some demons right now, in that, if he could go back and do it all over again, I think he’d do it differently,” he said.
Penn and Edgar will coach season 19 of The Ultimate Fighter, which will air in April, and will fight at a currently undetermined event upon the season’s conclusion.
Source: Fox Sports